How to Apologize Professionally

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Whether at work or at play, we all make mistakes sometimes. When it comes to business, the need for an apology becomes even more apparent when it involves a client or manager and when the lack of a proper apology may affect our livelihood. A co-worker also deserves a proper apology when you have wronged him. It is always best to offer a face-to-face apology even in business, but when this is not possible, an email or written apology will suffice.


Promptness is critical when you need to apologize to a colleague or other professional partner. While it is important to apologize, it is more important to apologize promptly. Saying you are sorry for deleting someone’s Internet files six months after the fact will probably not have the impact of saying it a few minutes, a few hours, or the day after it happens. Most people are more apt to forgive someone that apologizes promptly for her actions. Waiting too long to apologize can result in a grudge that can build up and can become hard to defuse.

Terms and Conditions

When you format your apology, keep it simple. A business apology doesn’t have to be any more complicated than an apology you might send to an acquaintance. Tell the person that you wronged that you are sorry and be sincere about it. The apology should stand on its own. You should sound sincere in your apology, otherwise you will sound as though you are excusing your own behavior. If you are providing an oral apology, then simply let the person know that you are sincerely sorry for any wrongdoing; your apology should not be contingent upon any terms and conditions.


If possible, ask the recipient of your apology for a discussion following the apology. You may include this request if the apology is in writing. You can say, for instance, “If you would like, we can discuss the circumstances to avoid a situation like this in the future. I would like to move forward and would be open to meeting with you.” It is not advisable to force the other party to discuss the issue with you, because that is not the nature of a professional and sincere apology. If the wronged party wants to have a discussion with you, then you may proceed. If not, you should drop the matter entirely.

Own Your Mistake

Make sure to own your mistakes. This is the most important part of an apology. In business, the most important part of an apology is taking responsibility for your portion. Much of the time in business a mistake is not always the result of one person. The other party may have some involvement in the mistake. It is not your job to force him to admit their part of the blame. Simply be the person to admit your wrongdoing, apologize, and move on. This is the best way to establish better relationships and move forward.